Donn Beach, aka Don the Beachcomber, famously came up with the idea of a lavish and immersive lounge featuring South Pacific themes and Caribbean cocktails in the 1930s. But it took two upstart restaurateurs and one of Beach’s top bartenders to take the Tiki concept to a whole new level when they opened The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale in 1956.
At The Hukilau, set for June 3-7 in Fort Lauderdale, find out how the combination of the insightful ownership of Bob and Jack Thornton along with the mixology skills of former Don the Beachcomber bartender Mariano Licudine set a standard of tropical cocktail excellence that has stood the test of time for more than 60 years.
Sticking closely to Beach’s groundbreaking secret recipes, but putting their own more modern and accessible spin on them, the brothers and their head bartender envisioned a menu of some 50 elaborate libations that endure and are beloved to this day under the continued ownership of Bob Thornton’s family.
Learn how The Mai-Kai still follows Don the Beachcomber’s procedures and standards that were created nearly 90 years ago to maintain the mystery and allure of the modern tropical cocktail in the restaurant’s secret back bars.
Join Hurricane Hayward of The Atomic Grog blog and some very special guests for an exploration of the passing of the torch from Donn Beach to the Thornton brothers, and the key role of Licudine in keeping these historic cocktails alive and thriving.
The Hukilau’s 2020 entertainment lineup will be announced on Feb. 3, when event tickets and passes go on sale for the 19th annual Tiki weekender June 3-7 in Fort Lauderdale. While The Mai-Kai remains the nerve center of the Polynesian Pop celebration for the 18th straight year, most of the festivities will be centered at the B Ocean Resort on Fort Lauderdale Beach.
After five years as host hotel, the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina closed for a years-long refurbishment and re-imagining on the day after The Hukilau 2019. To give you a preview of what you can expect during the whirlwind weekend, following is a look back at last year’s festivities. While this Top 10 list is nowhere near complete in capturing the diversity of activities that encompassed the five-day bash, it offers a snapshot of some of the more memorable moments.
Mahalo to the venues, the organizers, all the participants and (especially) all the villagers who attended. Special thanks to those who provided photos for use below. Here’s a sampling of what we enjoyed, in no particular order …
A famous jolly old man with a white beard is gearing up for his annual appearance to spread good tidings and cheer this week. However, there’s another distinguished gentleman with a white beard and colorful garb who has already created enough spirited revelry to last well into 2020.
Launching the week of Thanksgiving, both of these over-the-top, kitschy concepts have become a seasonal ritual and show no signs of slowing. The bars are fully immersive and can be enjoyed on many levels, from the snobbiest cocktail enthusiast to newbies just looking for seasonal fun, food and frivolity.
We caught up with “The Bum” during a break from his busy schedule making personal appearances and overseeing the Sippin’ Santa empire. His flagship bar, Latitude 29 in New Orleans, is in good hands under the leadership of “Mrs. Bum,” Annene Kaye, along with head bartender and GM Brad Smith, who did most of the heavy lifting in creating the latest Sippin’ Santa menu.
5 QUESTIONS WITH JEFF ‘BEACHBUM’ BERRY
There seems to be an insatiable demand for holiday-themed bars nowadays. Why do you think this has become a trend?
Tiki bars give you a tropical mini-vacation, and when you pile Christmas vacation on top of your tropical vacation you get two holidays in one: twice the atmosphere, twice the flavors, and hence twice the fun.
How do you think Sippin’ Santa differs from Miracle?
Miracle is strictly a Christmas pop-up, while Sippin’ is just as Christmasy but with an added Tiki overlay.
How much input do you have on the drinks, and how much is Brad?
It varies year to year. Last year the drinks were some mine and some Brad’s, but this year the recipes are all Brad’s. I did some tasting and some tweaking, but in most cases Brad’s “first draft” was the one we went with. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
The explosion of festive Christmas pop-up bars continues this season with the always popular Miracle concept now topping 100 locations across the United States, Canada and six other countries. Meanwhile, Tiki enthusiasts have even more holiday cheer in store for them as Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Santa, a sister concept to Miracle helmed by the esteemed tropical cocktail guru, has quickly doubled its nationwide reach.
Miracle and Sippin’ Santa locations are opening in late November and running through New Year’s Eve. Individual locations may have different start and end dates, as well as daily and weekly hours. Check with the bars in your area for details.
The Miracle concept is the brainchild of Greg Boehm of Cocktail Kingdom (at the suggestion of his mother) and dates back to the “Miracle on Ninth Street” pop-up at his Mace bar in New York City in 2014. Miracle expanded to four bars in 2015, then went worldwide in 2016 under the leadership of general manager Joann Spiegel. Last year there were more than 80, a surge from around 50 the year before.
Berry is a longtime collaborator with Boehm, who published the author’s last two books as well as a nifty line of Tiki barware. Named one of Imbibe magazine’s 25 most influential cocktail personalities of the past century, Berry joined forces with his Latitude 29 general manager and head bartender Brad Smith to create a menu of holiday-themed Tiki cocktails that will be the star of the show all Sippin’ Santa locations.
Many of our favorites are back on this year’s Miracle menu: Bad Santa, Christmas Carol Barrel, Christmopolitan, and Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r! Be aware that most of the cocktails have seen updates, large and small, by Miracle mixologist Nico de Soto. The Barrel is now a tequila drink featuring Mexican spices and liqueurs including coffee, orange and cognac. One new cocktail has been added: SanTaRex featuring rye whiskey and served in a nifty Tyrannosaurus Rex mug. There’s also a new shot, Mistletoe, featuring rye and gingerbread spices.
But we’re even more excited to get our first taste of the nine exclusive Sippin’ Santa cocktails, created by Berry and Smith. Who doesn’t want to try these soon-to-be Tiki holiday classics?
Christmas Eve of Destruction (overproof dark rum, lime juice, nutmeg syrup, Bénédictine, Angostura bitters) Don & Victor (Martinique & Jamaican rums, Italian bitter aperitif, sweet vermouth, D&V Batter, nutmeg) Festivus Flip (bourbon, Demerara rum, ginger-infused amaro, pomegranate, egg) Jingle Bowl (Jamaican & Demerara rums, apple brandy, amaro, lemon juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, maple & cinnamon syrups, Angostura bitters) Kris Kringle Colada (dark Jamaican rum, amaro, allspice dram, lime juice, pineapple juice, cream of coconut) Papa Noel (blanco tequila, apricot brandy, lime juice, pineapple juice, orgeat, cardamom bitters) Rudolph Shoots the Curl (herbal mint liqueur, amaro, dark chocolate liqueur) Shaka Kalikimaka (London dry gin, allspice dram, orange & cognac liqueur, lime juice, falernum, cranberry syrup, Herbsaint) Sippin’ Santa (aged Demerara rum, amaro, lemon juice, orange juice, gingerbread mix) * Download sample menu (PDF)
The Hukilau 2019: Women of Tiki take over the tower Thursday, June 6, was tropical cocktail heaven during the opening festivities of The Hukilau at Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina in Fort Lauderdale. The signature Tiki Tower Takeover cocktail party included eight of the world’s top female Tiki bartenders. Between sampling all the delicious drinks, hanging out with friends and enjoying the gorgeous views from the 17th-floor Pier Top Lounge, we managed to snap a few photos. Coming soon, a blog recap featuring more photos plus cocktail reviews and ratings. >>>> CLICK HERE FOR THE FACEBOOK PHOTO GALLERY
Established in 1956, The Mai-Kai is a national historic landmark with many iconic features that guests see every time they visit, from the Polynesian Islander Revue, to the distinctive design and decor, to the gracious staff.
But there’s one key element to the experience that you rarely ever see, but almost always taste: The rums of The Mai-Kai. Using tropical drink recipes that can be traced directly back to Don the Beachcomber’s 1930s-era classics, the behind-the-scenes bartenders follow generations-old methods of mixing rum cocktails.
Hurricane Hayward of The Atomic Grog will take guests of The Hukilau 2019 on an virtual journey to the Caribbean to learn about the key rums and styles that have dominated The Mai-Kai’s acclaimed cocktails for more than 60 years. This includes an intimate class for bartenders and enthusiasts at the Pier Sixty-Six hotel, and an interactive symposium on stage at the Polynesian palace in Fort Lauderdale.
Here are the details on both events:
The Rums of The Mai-Kai: The Classic Tiki Template Saturday, June 8, at Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy class in the Commodore Room, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Don the Beachcomber’s groundbreaking use of multiple rums in a single cocktail is crucial to the style that came to be known as Tiki. Nearly 90 years later, that exact same blending of spirits is still practiced today at The Mai-Kai. Hurricane Hayward of The Atomic Grog blog will guide hands-on lessons on how the flavors from different Caribbean islands are used in concert to create some of the world’s most famous rum rhapsodies. Put these practices to use to make your home bar sing. Special guest “professor” Stephen Remsberg, famed rum historian and collector, will share his knowledge and a few treats from his collection.
Another special treat: Students will shake up cocktails using sponsor rums and actual Mai-Kai ingredients. The restaurant will provide us with ample quantities of several classic drinks, sans rums, for our mixing pleasure. Also, there will be raffles held throughout the class with an assortment of door prizes, including signed books and barware from Cocktail Kingdom’s Beachbum Berry Collection.
All class members are also invited to The Mai-Kai on Sunday for special events that include rare “lost cocktails” from The Mai-Kai’s 1956 menu, plus reserved seats for an on-stage rum presentation by Hurricane Hayward and Matt Pietrek, aka Cocktail Wonk. Select students will participate in the symposium while a group of others will receive an exclusive, private tour of The Mai-Kai’s back bar and historic rum collection. Free shuttle will run betwen The Hukilau hotels and The Mai-Kai from 11:30 a.m. until around 5 p.m.
BUY TICKETS: Class sizes are limited, so act now before this sells out. Tickets for all Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy classes cost $49 plus fee, and include a special series of barware (rum sippers, spoons, muddlers, strainers, and a flask) created especially for students by Tiki Diablo. Participants get one item per class, plus the many rum samples, cocktails, and door prizes mentioned above.
The Rums of The Mai-Kai: From the Back Bar to Your Glass Sunday, June 9, at The Mai-Kai The Mai-Kai Grand Finale, noon to 4 p.m., featuring live music in The Molokai bar by Skinny Jimmy Stingray. Symposium in the main dining room at 1:30 p.m.
Take a deep dive into the historic rum collection of the legendary Polynesian restaurant with Jim “Hurricane” Hayward of The Atomic Grog blog and special guest Matt Pietrek, rum expert and author of the award-winning Cocktail Wonk blog. Discover new information on The Mai-Kai’s connection to Tiki cocktail forefather Don the Beachcomber through the rums they have in common. Includes an interactive, multimedia presentation and rare “lost cocktails” from the archives, as we enjoy The Mai-Kai before it opens to the public.
When The Atomic Grog launched in late April of 2011, the second post was a Tiki cocktail recipe. Now, more than 400 posts and 200 recipes later, we’ve put all those drinks into an alphabetical list for easy access as a treat to all of you who’ve supported the blog for the past eight years.
Click below and bookmark this page, we’ll keep updating as we add new drinks … Atomic Grog Cocktail Recipes, A through Z Among the many tribute recipes you’ll find are The Master Ninja from Beachbum Berry (center), and (from left) The Mai-Kai’s Yeoman’s Grog, Special Reserve Daiquiri, Black Magic, and Deep Sea Diver.
That title is a misnomer, because we’ve included more than just the A-Z list, which currently stands at 210 cocktails. Below that, you’ll find the recipes grouped in nine different categories – from Don the Beachcomber to our own original creations. They’re also organized into six common Tiki drink styles, including Daiquiris and Mai Tais.
Our mission to cover the very best events, music, art, cocktails, and culture in the modern Tiki revival has not changed in eight years. But the blog has come a long way since that Atomic Zombie Cocktail post on April 25, 2011. That recipe remains one of our favorites, however, and a standard The Atomic Grog has tried to maintain.
Since then, we’ve gone on a deep dive down a rabbit hole that we continue to explore in our most popular feature, The Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide, which includes nearly half of the recipes on the site. But there have been many other drinks explored in stories and reviews that we want you to be able to find easily. I hope this new feature accomplishes that.
Mahalos to all!
First and foremost, I’d like to thank the owners and staff of The Mai-Kai, not only a historic landmark, but a place that holds a special place in my heart and the hearts of many. I still get chills walking through the doors for the umpteenth time. It serves as the “mothership” to generations of Tiki mixologists, including yours truly. Owner Dave Levy, manager Kern Mattei, promotions director Pia Dahlquist, and everybody I’ve ever encountered have made it a pleasure to be there.
I’d also like to send out my deepest appreciation to author, Tiki cocktail historian, and Latitude 29 barkeep Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. Without his groundbreaking work, you probably wouldn’t be enjoying half the cocktails on our list, and most certainly you would not be reading this blog. He has truly been an inspiration. Also, much appreciation to everyone else whose recipes appear on the list. They’re all enjoyable drinks or they wouldn’t be there.
I’m also very appreciative and humbled by all the bars across the country who have served our cocktails. Mahalo to Tiki Mondays With Miller, Trader Vic’s, Hale Pele, Hidden Harbor, Forbidden Island, and everyone else who have featured Atomic Grog recipes on their menus over the years.
The most special thanks go to my wife, Susan, not only for agreeing to marry me at The Mai-Kai nine years ago, but also for supporting these crazy endeavors through thick and thin. She also contributed her graphic design talents by creating The Atomic Grog logo, as well as helping photograph, edit and proof many features on the blog.
And last but not least, a huge shout out to all the home bartenders who take the time to mix up our featured cocktails, from The Mai-Kai tributes to the many delicious creations by some of the best bartenders across the country. Like you, I’m just a fan of well-crafted tropical cocktails, looking for the best recipes to make in my home bar. You rule!
For the fifth year in a row, the signature event at The Hukilau has sold out months in advance. The Tiki Tower Takeover, held every June in the 17th floor rooftop ballroom at Pier Sixty-Six in Fort Lauderdale, will have added significance in 2019.
The festive cocktail party that spotlights some of the world’s top Tiki bartenders will celebrate Women Who Tiki with eight female mixologists serving their own special creations. With the hotel closing for a massive refurbishment immediately after The Hukilau, it will also be the last Takeover in the tower for at least two years.
The Hukilau: Wednesday through Sunday, June 5-9, 2019, at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina, B Ocean Resort and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring Tikiyaki Orchestra, Tikiyaki 5-0, Surfer Joe, The Volcanics, The Hula Girls, The Intoxicators, The Disasternauts, Gold Dust Lounge, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, The Swingin’ Palms, Slowey and the Boats, King Kukulele, Brother Cleve, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Ian “Rum Ambassador” Burrell, and 25 top Tiki bars and bartenders from around the world. * TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Instagram
In addition to the all-female theme, the 2019 event will feature a significant increase in participants over past years, when no more than five bartenders were included. The Hukilau takes over the Pier Top Lounge from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 6. Prior to boarding the elevators to the tower, villagers can enjoy a welcome drink in the hotel’s ground-floor Windows on the Green.
While individual tickets are no longer available, there’s still one way to gain VIP entry. There are a limited number of South Seas passes available ($399 plus fee) that include exclusive early access at 4 p.m. to the Tiki Tower Takeover plus a custom mug from Tiki Farm. This top-of-the-line pass also gets you admission to all five days of events (not including symposiums and classes). Click here for a rundown on all the ticket options, as well as updates on what’s sold out.
Here’s this year’s all-star lineup of bartenders. All are making their first Tiki Tower Takeover appearance, though two have previously served the welcome drink. No previous events have featured more than five bars, so expect an action-packed (and cocktail-filled) party in the Pier Top Lounge this year.
In the 21st century pop culture landscape, you typically gauge the health and success of a subgenre not by its mainstream success but by the vitality of its core audience. While Tiki has flirted with crossover fame for decades, it remains deeply rooted in the wants and needs of its devoted constituents. As evidence of this, we have the latest slew of new book and magazine releases aimed directly at this loyal demographic.
This year marks the publication of several new cocktail books along with continuing releases of a new quarterly magazine devoted to the revival of Polynesian Pop and mid-century culture. Who says social media and the Internet have killed off the printed word?
Hardcover book salutes Tiki home bartending community
The official U.S. release date is not until April 1, but The Home Bar Guide to Tropical Cocktails is already is among the top new releases in the alcoholic spirits category on Amazon thanks to relentless promotion by Reilly and the loyalty of her followers. Over the years, she’s probably served most of the California Tiki community at home parties, major events including Tiki Oasis and Tiki Caliente, plus a stint at Tonga Hut in North Hollywood.
A book release party was held on Sunday, March 10, at the Tonga Hut featuring live music by The Glasgow Tiki Shakers and special limited edition Mai Tai glasses. Joining the authors at the meet-and-greet and book signing were Kirsten, Murphy, Horne, and Geiger. Exotica Moderne magazine also joined the party, with artist Big Toe signing copies of the new issue featuring his cover artwork (see story below).
Reilly met Morgan – who teaches film, screenwriting and public speaking – through a shared interest in Tiki mugs. After many Rumpus Room gatherings, Morgan planted the seed for the book, but it was tough talking Reilly into sharing her secret recipes, according to an Exotica Moderne article on the book. This is a tradition dating back to the early days of Tiki cocktails, when mixologists feared others bars would steal their drinks, but Reilly also was leery about today’s free-for-all on social media. Luckily, she finally relented and the book was born.
Included among the 150 cocktail recipes are several created specifically for the book, plus the secrets to making your own exotic syrups such as ancho chili, lemongrass, sesame, and hibiscus. Full-color photos of a half-dozen home bars are splashed across the book’s pages. “These folks spend months and years and thousands of dollars on these bars, and it shows, we’re thankful,” Reilly told Exotica Moderne.
Spirits educator’s book puts modern spin on rum and Tiki cocktails
It’s no surprise that all three of the new books profiled here are written or co-written by female mixologists, long under-represented in the bar industry at large and Tiki subgenre in particular. But a new breed of talented professionals are quickly putting their creative mark on the Tiki and rum worlds, led by a Brooklyn-based cocktail consultant and spirits educator Shannon Mustipher.
Mustipher’s new 192-page hardcover book, Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails (release date: March 19 on Amazon), is the culmination of her short but intensive journey from bartender at the Caribbean restaurant Glady’s in Brooklyn in 2014 to her current role as “spiritual adviser” and founder of the Women Who Tiki pop-up that spotlights women slinging some of the best tropical cocktails behind the bar. She’s also a founding member of Women Leading Rum, an industry organization dedicated to education and career development.
In a short 5 years, Mustipher has taken her passion for Caribbean rum and raised it to the next level via brand consulting and speaking engagements across the country. Her writing, recipes and opinions have appeared in publications including Imbibe, Punch, GQ, and Liquor.com. While overseeing the bar program at Gladys, she took her show on the road representing brands including Denizen(former brand ambassador) and Pusser’s (currently brand education specialist).
Mustipher is known for taking tropical drinks to the next level by incorporating flavors of Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, including the Zombie, Mai Tai and Jungle Bird. Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails (Rizzoli/Universe) also includes original recipes, techniques, tasting notes and recommendations plus tips on style and music. The book promises “a focus on refreshing flavors, fine spirits, and high-impact easy-to-execute presentation.” It also promises to be one of the most visually stunning cocktail books in recent memory, considering Mustipher’s prior career as a styling assistant in the photo industry.
Tiki and South Beach: Two great tastes that don’t necessarily go great together. The glitz and glamour of Miami’s most famous tourist strip seems at odds with the laid-back island atmosphere and exotic South Seas vibe that makes Polynesian Pop so endearing.
But like diverse ingredients in a complex tropical drink, that awkward juxtaposition may finally be working in harmony if you look closely at the fifth annual “Art of Tiki” cocktail competition during the recent South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
Held Feb. 22 at The Surfcomber hotel and featuring mostly up-and-coming Miami bartenders, the festive feast of booze and food made a large leap forward after a disappointing 2018, according to our correspondent. Everything was turned up a notch, from the entertainment to the decor to the food, resulting in a better overall vibe and more successful event. Some credit should go to the event’s second-year sponsor, Miami’s venerable Bacardi rum.
In a surprise result, the competition’s Judge’s Choice award went not to a hotshot bartender but to a quiet and unassuming chef whose complex and creative cocktail paid tribute to Cuba. Meanwhile, popular Miami restaurant Beaker & Gray was the People’s Choice, the bar team’s third win in three years. Ted Allen from sponsor Food Network hosted the party, which as usual sold out the large outdoor pool, patio and beach area behind the hotel.
Below you’ll find our full recap, including photos and reviews of all the cocktails. Also check out our photos from the Rhum Barbancourt booth in the SoBeWFF’s Grand Tasting Village, along with a cocktail recipe from New York City’s Brian Miller. We also included a recap and previously unpublished photos from last year’s Art of Tiki, along with a commentary on the history of the event.
The Art of Tiki returned to The Surfcomber for the fourth year in a row and featured another new marquee name. Ted Allen, best known for hosting the Emmy Award-winning chef competition show Chopped since 2009, was the first non-chef to preside over the Art of Tiki (his bio calls him an author and television personality). His TV role made him well suited to judge the cocktails, which ended up being his central role.
Bacardi executive, ambassador and former bartender Adrian Biggs filled the role of master of ceremonies and made most of the announcements to the crowd. To Barcardi’s credit, it seemed like the spirits giant put more money and effort into the event in its second year as title sponsor. New decor and entertainment by the Mareva Tahiti Polynesian Dancers gave the event a much more authentically Tiki atmosphere. It was as if The Mai-Kai – Fort Lauderdale’s historic Polynesian restaurant – was there in spirit, as one speaker noted.
Several Bacardi-owned rums were made available for the 10 contestants, including sponsors Banks, Santa Teresa and Havana Club (the U.S. version, of course). Among those used by the mixologists were Bacardi Anejo Cuatro, Banks Five Island, Santa Teresa 1796, and Havana Club Anejo Blanco. The contestants also challenged the judges’ taste buds with an array of unique house-made ingredients along with fresh juices, syrups, liqueurs and bitters.
In addition to Allen, the judges included journalists Belkys Nerey (Miami’s WSVN-7) and Laine Doss (Miami New Times), plus bar manager Chris Hudnall (Soho House & Co.). While there’s no Tiki in Allen’s background (that we know of), he sure seems like the kind of guy you’d want to drink with at a Tiki bar. He appeared to enjoy the festivities, but looked “more like a spectator than a host,” according to our correspondent.
The 2019 lineup featured just two 2018 returnees (last year’s champs, Jesus Perez and Ben Potts), along with two-time winner Gui Jaroschy plus many new faces: * Kevin Andrade from Drunken Dragon (Miami Beach) * David Cedeno, Seth Carter and Roman Naumov from MiniBar (Miami Beach) * Emiliano Gonzalez from Casa Florida (Miami) * TJ Palmieri from Madrina’s (Gainesville) * Jesus Perez and Courtney Lane from The Broken Shaker (Miami Beach) * Daniele Dalla Pola from Esotico Miami * Ben Potts from Beaker & Gray (Miami) * Andres Rairan from The Social Club at The Surfcomber (Miami Beach) * Jorgie Ramos from Abi Maria Bar & Refuge (Miami) * Anthony Valencia and Gui Jaroschy from Driftway at Generator (Miami Beach)
Particpiating chefs included: Byron Alabado of SushiSamba (Miami Beach), Adrianne Calvo of Chef Adrianne’s (Miami), Victoria Chediak of Poké 305 (North Miami Beach, Miami Beach, Coconut Grove, Miami), Brian Mullins of Ms. Cheezious (Miami, Coral Gables), Richard Sandoval of Toro Toro (Miami), and Cesar Zapata of Phuc Yea (Miami).